By Sue Botos
As school districts have become more cost-conscious in light of funding cuts by the state, there is an ever-increasing demand for new technology and other learning materials in the classroom that can’t be budgeted.
The Rocky River Education Foundation (RREF) has helped to bridge this gap.
In the fall of 2013, the group donated nearly $15,000 to fund projects at all four district schools in a variety of subject areas, including music, special needs and math.
According to Erin Voight, a Rocky River High School teacher and RREF public relations co-chairwoman, 14 grants were awarded, ranging from less than $100 to thousands of dollars. In addition, the foundation donates $1,000 in “Creative Cash” to each of the four city schools and $500 to REACH (Rocky River Early Achievement Program) to be used at the discretion of building principals.
Since its beginning in 1984, RREF has awarded over $777,000 in grants, plus scholarships for graduating Rocky River High School seniors. “Our forecast for the 2013-2014 (scholarships) is $47,000, our highest amount ever,” Voight predicted. RREF offers 38 donor-named individual scholarships which last year amounted to $43,000.
Grants are distributed twice a year, and the deadline for the spring awards is Feb. 14.
Voight said that applicants must fill out a detailed online application, which asks for the total amount of funding requested, the entire cost of the project, plus any matching funding already secured. She added that the number of students impacted is also a deciding factor. Teachers are then invited to a RREF board meeting to give a presentation, and put their creativity on display. Recipients are also asked to provide written follow-up, informing the foundation about whether or not expected outcomes had been reached.
The requests are then reviewed by a diverse panel consisting of residents, school and city administrators and retirees, who choose those plans that seem to be the most viable and benefit the greatest number of students.
Sometimes the community benefits from RREF grants as well. In November, the foundation sponsored a visit from James Swanson, author of “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer,” who gave presentations to high school students and to the public.
The Goldwood Primary School playground renovation project led the fall list of recipients with an award of $10,000. Hoped to be complete by the fall of 2014, the new “high capacity” equipment will replace aging wooden structures that date back to 1991. Total cost of the work is expected to run about $80,000.
The addition of iPads to enhance classroom lessons has always topped teacher wish lists. Goldwood teacher Kathryn Fiorillo received funding ($2,780) for six of the tablets to support student literacy in the second grade, plus money to purchase the accompanying electronic books and apps.
Other awards supported interactive software for preschool special needs students, materials for a duck hatching project at Goldwood, a trip for the entire seventh grade to the Titanic exhibit at the Great Lakes Science Center and new safety vests and flags for the Kensington Intermediate School safety patrol.
Foundation Chairman Brett Jaffe said that the vests, totaling about $500, were donated to RREF by National Safety Apparel in Cleveland. Knowing owner Chaz Grossman, Jaffe said, “I just reached out to him and he provided a few samples for the safety patrol to chose from. They selected a professional-quality vest, and NSA donated them to RREF.”
Even students have been known to help out RREF. In 2012, the high school environmental science club selected the foundation to receive funds from their recycling of writing instruments.
Voight said, however, that most of RREF’s funds come from the annual March fundraiser. This year the dinner-auction, “A Night on the Town,” will be held on March 22 at the Westwood Country Club. For information, contact Kerry Capka at 440-333-3618 or firstname.lastname@example.org.